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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

MUIRHEAD`S MYSTERIES: A BADGER IN HONG KONG

A day or two ago I received a single page from the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 1870 on a badger found in Hong Kong by a Dr Harland in 1870 (not to be confused with another Harland, the 1st Surgeon General of Hong Kong who died some years earlier, who confusingly was also interested in natural history. I am almost 100% certain there were two Harlands, because the surgeon general died in 1857, and the Hong Kong badger was shot in 1867 or 1868. Perhaps they were related? Or, the Hong Kong badger was shot before 1857 and only sent to London about 10 years later, but that doesn`t make much sense. But it seems almost inconceivable that there are 2 Harlands both naturalists living within about a decade of each other in the same place. Fortunately there is a Facebook group about the surgeon Harland and I have today contacted one of its members to try and get more information.)

The point about this badger is that it is somewhat neglected as part of Hong Kong`s fauna although D. Hill and K. Phillipps in Hong Kong Animals do mention it as last being seen in 1922 (1) It is not mentioned in The Fauna of Hong Kong by B.Lofts (1976). I don`t own The Hong Kong Countryside by Herklots (1951), it may be in there. (It isn't Ed)

I would like to track down this 1922 report.

Anyway here is the account:

MELES LEPTORHYNCHUS, Alph. M-Edwards. (Chinese Badger.) M. Chinensis, Gray, P. Z. S. 1868, p. 207 (figure of skull)*

[* I have seen the drawing of this skull; it`s in the CFZ archives I believe - R].

Of this species, “the skull”, remarks Dr J. E. Gray,” is so like that of Meles leucurus from Thibet that I should have regarded them as the same, if there were not so much difference in the length, and flaccidness and coloration of the fur, and the abundance of the under-fur. This may depend on the climate. The shortness and peculiar colour of the fur are exactly alike in the specimens sent by Dr Harland from Hong Kong and by Mr. Consul Swinhoe from Amoy. I may observe that when Dr. Harland`s specimen was sent it was regarded as a young Arctonyx collaris.” *


(Cat.Mamm.1869,p.127)

[** Hog badger-found in S. E. Asian tropical forests. Wikipedia . R]

The first of this species was brought to me at Amoy on the 17th July, 1867, in so badly wounded a state that it soon died. It was a male, and measured from the snout to the root of its tail 22 inches: tail 6; from carpal joint of fore leg to tips of claws 4.75; from shoulder to carpal joint 8.25; sole of fore foot 2.2 long, 1.1 broad, longest claw .6;hind foot 2.8. Length of head 5.1; tip of nose to corner of eye 1.7; from ear to ear across head 2.45; breadth of ear 1.5; ear 1.5; edge of upper lip to base of projecting nose .75

Hair of upper body coarse, about 1.5 inch long. Nose and nails brownish flesh-colour. Soles of feet pale flesh-colour.Band under nose brown, with a narrow side border of same to lower lip. A band of black about an inch wide runs along either side of the head, from near the snout across the eyes, and terminates broader just behind the ear. A broad stripe of buff-white runs from the nose to the occiput, and another of the same colour on either side of the face (including angle of mouth, with a narrow strip round chin) to below and beyond the ear; ear black, with a buff white border to its upper half. Underparts and limbs black; upper parts somewhat densely clothed with short pale buff woolly under-fur; the upper-fur long and coarse, and also pale buff with dark centres, giving a grizzly appearance to the coat. Tail plain light buff. Teeth somewhat worn. The fur had many lice, but I only detected one flea.

On the 19th July, a male and female were brought to me, the latter very large and very old, with few teeth remaining, and these quite worn down. They were both fresh killed. The female had four teats on the belly, and two on the abdomen, just between the fore part of the thighs. She measured 31.5 inches, with a tail of 7.25 to its bony tip, and hairs extending 2.25 beyond; between ears across head 2.75. Her hair was much longer, especially on the tail; and she was much more tawny on the upper parts. Neither of them had the black and white face markings so distinct as in the younger animal of the 18th June.(1)


1. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1870 p.622


D E V O S W E L L I N G I TC H I N G B R A I N

Got a nervous kind of feeling
Got a painfull yellow headache
Every picture in every magazine turned real
Every face looks out at and screams at me too real

Cold sweat on my collar
Dripping to my boots
The waves of nauseous pain
Set off the pressure pad alarms

Gotta get out of here
Gotta get out of here
Gotta get out of here
Gottta get out of here

Gotta painfull swelling brian
Banging in my head
Gotta painfull swelling brain
And I called off sick….etc

1 comment:

shiva said...

According to Wikipedia, Meles meles leptorhynchus is the Russian subspecies of the European Badger (the same one we have in Britain), whereas Meles leucurus is a closely related Asian species, regarded by some authorities as also a subspecies of Meles meles, Google image results for "Meles leucurus" are either badgers that look just like English ones or some that have a bit more white and less black in their stripe pattern, but otherwise very similar (like this one: www.zoologi.no/patlas/images/grevling-RV.jpg - nowhere near as different-looking as the American badger, which is a different genus) - so possibly this badger was in fact a European badger imported to Hong Kong by some English aristocrat? I can easily imagine some eccentric colonial type wanting to have "proper English badgers" in his garden to remind him of "home"...